Right To Know and Public.Resource.Org initiate legal action against the European Commission

Today, Right To Know – in collaboration with US access to information NGO Public.Resource.Org (“Public Resource”) – announced they have initiated legal action against the European Commission at the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

Right To Know and Public Resource are seeking from the European Commission access to descriptions of certain technical standards agreed by the European Committee for Standardisation (Comité Européen de Normalisation) or “CEN“.

We sought technical public safety standards with the force of law that include the safety of toys, including children’s chemical sets and and those relating to the chemicals present in products such as finger paint.

Late last year, we sought access to these standards via a request under Regulation 1049/2001 (containing Aarhus Convention related amendments). The European Commission refused access to these standards at both the first juncture and after a confirmatory appeal.

Our legal action at the General Court seeks to annul this decision of the Commission to refuse access to these standards.

It is the view of both Right To Know and Public Resource that harmonised technical standards form part of EU law and should therefore be available to any EU citizen – without restriction.

We rely in particular on the decision of the Court of Justice in James Elliott Construction (C-613/14) that “a harmonised standard … and the references to which have been published in the Official Journal of the European Union, forms part of EU law”.

Right To Know Director Gavin Sheridan said: “We believe all EU citizens have a right to access and read all EU law. EU law includes harmonised technical standards – and those technical standards include the safety of toys.”

“We are pleased to be working with Public Resource and its founder Carl Malamud who has a very long and admirable record in working on access to information rights globally.”

“We are both perplexed as to why EU citizens – including parents – are unable to read the standards imposed on toy manufacturers concerning the levels of chemicals to which their children might be exposed. It seems odd to us that EU citizens must currently pay for access to this information – it should be available for free and without restriction on re-use, or dissemination.”

Public Resource and Right To Know are represented by Morrison Forrester in Berlin, Germany and by FP Logue solicitors in Dublin, Ireland.  

Public Resource is a not-for-profit public charity established in the United States to make government information more broadly available to citizens and to help make governments use the Internet more effectively.

Right To Know is a not-for-profit company established in Ireland that seeks to vindicate the rights of citizens to access information, as part of their fundamental rights to freedom of expression.

Court Filings: Property Developer Paddy McKillen launches legal action against IBRC

This is the court filing from Delaware reported in the Sunday Business Post yesterday, concerning legal action between  Paddy McKillen and IBRC.

The property developer has launched a massive legal action in the United States against the liquidators of the former Anglo Irish Bank.

Continue reading “Court Filings: Property Developer Paddy McKillen launches legal action against IBRC”

Court documents in MCENR vs Information Commissioner & (eNet / Gavin Sheridan)

Given the publicity surrounding the National Broadband Plan in recent days it’s worth returning to the original National Broadband Plan from the early 00s – the Metropolitan Area Networks. These were fibre rings built at significant cost to the EU and the State around dozens of rural towns in Ireland. When it came to awarding a contract to operate and market these fibre rings, eNet in Limerick secured the first contract in a competitive tender process, which was also renewed in the next tender (one tenderer applied) . It was then renewed again to 2030 in 2017, by the Minister, without a tendering process at all.

I asked for the contract/concession agreement between eNet and the Department, and they refused to release it, going against a long held position of the Information Commissioner that once a contract is awarded and public money is involved, the public has a right to know about the contract/agreement itself.

We publish below the public court documents in relation to the High Court appeal that the Department ultimately lost and has now appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Information Commissioner opposed the Department in the High Court. I also opposed the Department as Notice Party, represented by FP Logue Solicitors and John Kenny BL.

Before starting, read the Information Commissioner decision that started the whole thing. It gives the background on what I asked for. This was the decision that was appealed to the High Court by the Department/Minister for Communications.

Now the court documents:

First is the outline legal submission of the Department: filed in February 2017. It contains 90 paragraphs of argument that the Information Commissioner had erred in law by deciding that the concession agreement for the most part should be released (despite the contract being commercially sensitive – the public interest is in it being released, argued the Commissioner).

Second is the Information Commissioner’s position, opposing the views of the Department.

Third is the Affidavit of eNet, by Finance Director Braonan Gardiner, generally supporting the position of the Department. eNet, unlike us, did not participate in the proceedings (so didn’t hire a solicitor or barrister). And as the judge noted “enet did not participate in this appeal other than by way of submitting an affidavit which was filed by the Minister on his own behalf.”

Fourth is our legal submission, opposing the views of the Department.

Taking into account these documents, and arguments before the court, Judge Noonan ruled against the Department.

The Department has appealed that ruling to the Court of Appeal, which is due for hearing in February 2019.